Cenote Zapote is also known as Hell’s Bells due to the unique bell shaped Speleothems. These bells are surrounding the underside of the cavern as it opens up from the entry point. The cenote is located along the Ruta de los Cenotes in the Yucatan, Mexico. Complete with hydrogen sulfide clouds, dead tree branches emerging from this mist, and large bells make this cenote one eerie dive.
It’s just west of Puerto Moreles. My dive guide is David from Blue Life and my buddies are Mia and Michaela.
Zapote has quite a deep drop from the land surface to the water surface of 6m/20ft but its access is easy via stairs. Mia stands at the edge of cenote top and leaps from there into the middle of the cenote for a grand entrance. Although I’ve made a few jumps from this height before I choose to walk down the stairs this time.
From the top this cenote is beckoning me to explore. I’m getting anxious to gear up and descend to see all these mysterious offerings first hand.
Our guide David giving the OK signal. I respond likewise and we all continue to descend.
I film David’s silhouette against the light of the cenote opening as I look up.
I love descending in cenotes since a lot of them have narrow openings with rays of sunlight. As you descend this one opens up like the bottom of an hourglass. The name Zapote comes from the sapote fruit to describe the cenotes shape.
The first thing we explore is this dead tree which appears like an art form in the darkness surrounded by glowing mist. Our max depth will be about 30m and I’m using a GoPro Hero 10 to film in this deep darkness, wishing I had more lighting.
At 22m on the underside of this hourglass shaped cenote is where the bells surround the circumference. There are a couple other cenotes where you’ll see several small bell formations but nothing like this special cenotes. Some of the smaller bells remind me more of horse hooves.
Of the myriad of cenotes to choose from to dive I had spent a lot of time trying to dive the ones that had the most different ‘personalities’. So if you’ve seen one cenote you have not seen them all.
I’m enthralled with these bells, my filming is simply not doing them enough justice. More light, more fps, wider angle, more…
I’m closing in on these bell’s trying to get most closeup details while ensuring not to ding any of these. I have no idea about the fragility or robustness of these bells. They are thick about 2 inches at the ends. I would like to practice a leave no trace model in my adventures and ensure the further enjoyment for future adventurers.
Maneuvering closer and upside down to get an underside photo of the bell, I’m employing my best buoyancy control. Some of these are twice my width.
I do some more research about these bell formations later. I found some information in a research paper by Professor Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck from the Institute of Geosciences of the University of Heidelberg. 1 2017 via the Sciencedaily website.
In general the requirements are unique. They require carbonate deposits and need to lie just above the halocline layer. Any lower and the calcite would dissolve. Followed by a combination of specific physical and biogeochemical (microbes) conditions, add a few thousands years, say 5000 or more and presto!
So cenote Zapote had the magical combination of conditions to produce these bells.
After our ascent back to the surface we are floating, relaxing and discussing the dive.
I tell David that this dive was much better than I expected. No disappontments here except from my filmography. You always think of what you can do better to capture the essence of what you have seen.
But I’m totally euphoric and happy with my choice. Next stop cenote Maravilla.
1. Heidelberg University. “Unique underwater stalactites.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171124114942.htm>.